French court fines oil group Total in Iran bribery case

PARIS (Reuters) – A Paris court fined French oil and gas group Total (TOTF.PA) 500,000 euros ($570,000) on Friday for bribing foreign public officials in a case related to Iranian contracts in 1997.

A message reading “out of order” is seen at a Total petrol station in Reze near Nantes, France, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Total, was charged with paying $30 million in bribes under the cover of a consultancy contract to facilitate a deal for the South Pars gas field more than two decades ago.

The Paris prosecutor said this contract had in reality covered “corruption payments”.

Total’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said in a statement after the ruling that the company would no longer pursue the matter because none of the individuals under investigation were still alive.

“Anyone who knew (former Total CEO) Christophe de Margerie knows that he would never be involved in any type of corruption,” Pouyanne said.

“However, given the specific circumstances of this case, which has been already judged in the U.S. and in which none of the individuals can defend themselves, Total doesn’t want to pursue it,” he added.

It is not the first time that Total’s business with Iran has ended in court. In 2013 it agreed to pay $398 million to settle a U.S. criminal and civil allegation that it paid bribes between 1995 and 2004 to win oil and gas contracts.

This was billed as the first coordinated action by French and U.S. law enforcement in a major foreign bribery case and at the time the Paris prosecutor recommended Total and its then CEO de Margerie face trial in France.

De Margerie died in 2014 in a plane crash.

($1 = 0.8767 euros)

Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and Bate Felix, writing by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Alexander Smith

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